Toyota is indeed perusing electric vehicles (EV), and recently purchased a stake in EV manufacturer Tesla. Toyota seems reluctant though to make the plug-in technology standard on the most successful hybrid car in the world, the Prius. While a fully electric Prius is coming out in 2012, it does not look like the traditional hybrid Prius will come with an official plug in option anytime soon.
Toyota’s argument is that the push to make the hybrid Prius with a plug in standard would add about 400 pounds of equipment to the car. The result is obvious—a heavier vehicle. However, adding 400 pounds to a car also means that car must have larger brakes, larger springs, and a more intricate safety system. All of these components also add additional weight. All that weight leads to a heavier, less-efficient Prius.
While Toyota and the Prius have dominated hybrid vehicle sales worldwide, there is a lot more competition than there used to be. The Chevy Volt came on the market last year as an extended range electric car (A fancy name for a plug-in hybrid. – Ed.). The problem Toyota sees with the Volt is the high price tag, around $42,000, needed to cover the cost of the battery which only powers the Volt for 40 miles before needing a recharge.
Another competitor to the Prius is the Nissan Leaf which went on sale last fall and is 100% electric and has a driving range of about 80 miles. Yet, that 80 mile driving range can very dramatically depending on how aggressively the Leaf is driven. Interestingly, Toyota cites the high cost to the consumer and the potential for poor performance as two additional reasons to not make plug in technologies standard on the Prius. Tests with the limited number of Plug-in Prii have shown gas mileage between 60 and 80 mpg, with an all-electric range of about 14 miles. Toyota hasn’t said how it plans to price a Plug-in Prius, but it will likely start close to $30,000 and go up from there. Speculations puts the estimated number of plug in vehicles for sale by Toyota anywhere from 5,000 to 40,000 in the next couple of years. A lot of it rides on whether or not gas prices continue to escalate.
If you ask me though, Toyota does present a strong argument for not toying with the successful and loved hybrid car that is the Prius. Then again, history favors the bold, and some may see Toyota and the Prius as sitting on its laurels.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail.